We very much like the new interface for accessing the cabin tech features. The LCD is a touch screen, and all inputs can also be made with a knob and two buttons below the screen. The onscreen menus use a semicircular pattern with an attractive design. We found it easiest to use the knob and buttons for some operations, such as scrolling through a list, then hitting the touch screen when inputting letters or numbers.
This interface takes a cue from Audi's cabin tech, using different colors for different applications, with navigation in blue, audio in red, and the phone system in green.
And similar to Audi, the new Jetta gets one of the most advanced Bluetooth phone systems in the business. After an unnecessarily long pairing process, the system imported our iPhone's contact list. We were able to access the contacts on the car's screen, of course, and were also able to use the voice command system to dial by name.
The audio menus use separate screens for broadcast, which includes satellite radio, and fixed media, with the same semicircular menu treatment. We were pleased to find that the media sources not only had iPod integration, but also Bluetooth stereo streaming. There is also an SD card slot next to the screen.
The iPod cable, inconveniently placed in the glove compartment, uses the same proprietary port originally used by Audi. This port allows for a variety of cables, with connectors for iPods, full-size, and Mini-USB, and a simple 1/8th-inch auxiliary input.
As for browsing an iPod library, the interface makes it easy to look through music based on artist, album, or genre. A slight annoyance: the system always defaulted to showing the full list of songs every time we connected an iPod, forcing us to back up a few menus to look by artist or album.
The audio quality from the car's six-speaker system was nothing special, but a step above what would come from the lesser-trim Jetta's four-speaker system. Bass and treble response were both reasonable, but the system tended to bury a lot of the detail from music we played through it. Turning up the volume on tracks with heavier bass, we heard the inevitable panel rattle we would expect from a cheap system.
Volkswagen does not make use of the Jetta's LCD for a backup camera, although the car is not in dire need of that feature. Other driver assistance features, such as blind-spot detection, are also not available.
In many ways, the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta SEL is a very average car. The engine and transmission move the car reasonably well and turn in good fuel economy, but they don't exploit the latest efficiency technologies, which might result in more satisfying power.
Impressive in the SEL is the inclusion of the entire cabin tech suite as standard. Although the navigation system is very basic, it is a solid performer. The Bluetooth phone system is the most standout application in the electronics.
We mentioned the mundane design of the Jetta, but otherwise we do like its modern styling. It also earns points for the design of its cabin tech interface, which is particularly good.
|Model||2011 Volkswagen Jetta|
|Power train||2.5-liter five-cylinder engine; five-speed manual transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||23 mpg city/33 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||28.3 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard flash memory based|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Bluetooth streaming, USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Six-speaker stereo|
|Price as tested||$22,295|